Pricing photography can feel like a daunting task, even for experienced professionals. For beginners, the feeling of not knowing where to start in pricing photography is natural and completely understandable.
After all, many photographers get into a love and passion for the creative aspect of making images. Putting a value on our work doesn't necessarily come easily, because the creative act comes first.
In this post, we'll look at some of the factors in how to consider pricing your work, resources to use for pricing, and more.
Factors to consider when pricing photography
Pricing photography should consider many factors. These include:
Now let's break down these factors. This won't be an exhaustive examination, but the goal of this article is to get you thinking about how to price photography and why.
It's ultimately most important to understand what goes into pricing. Even viewing specific ranges or prices for jobs, as shown in the Music Photography Rates Sheet, may not give the full picture. The rate should ultimately depend on the details. So let's dig in.
Usage is one of the most important factors. Usage in photography is how a client will use images when those images are licensed. The use of an image for an album cover is dramatically different than use for social media or editorial coverage.
More broadly, use can fall into a few main categories:
Marketing and promotional use is technical commercial, but here the main distinction is that for commercial use, the image itself is being sold either directly or as part of a product.
Editorial use is generally the least expensive in terms of licensing cost, while commercial is the most expensive.
The client is hugely important in licensing photography. Who is using a photo can be just as important as what they're using it for. In music photography for example, a local band using an image for an album cover is much different than an established national band or a pop star.
Another way to consider the client is their reach or the impact the images will have. The client can be tied to use and usage in a sense. While the specific use may be the same, the actual “work” the images does is different in scope. So when considering clients, this weight of the images is critical in considering their value.
The licensing rights that you assign to a client are integral to usage, but for this purpose, let's break it down in terms of exclusivity and ownership as it pertains to the images.
The main types of licensing agreements include:
Work For Hire
When photography is made, all rights reside with the photographer/creator as a matter of law as defined by the Berne Convention. You as the photographer hold the rights to the images until you assign them away under a licensing agreement.
Licenses can also be defined as unlimited use or limited specific uses (which should be outlined and agreed on by all parties).
It's most common to have limited use and this is often in the best interest for photographers, to maintain the highest control of their images and to limit use.
What the photographer delivers should be a large factor in pricing. Is the price for one image, or one hundred? Is it for JPGs or RAW files? Are you delivering photographer selects from your edit, or are you showing the client everything as proofs?
Generally speaking, the more you deliver, the more you should charge.
Generally, you should to control your photography unless the client pays for the right to dictate the final product. For this reason, most photographers prefer to only deliver final processed images — not RAW files. The reason is that giving a client RAW files means they may have the final say on the edit and processing, which in turn means the final product may not represent the photographer's style accurately.
Rarity of images can also be a factor in pricing. If there was a historic moment or scene that was only photographed by a single photographer, those images have more value in one sense than if there were 10 or 100 other photographers who made similar images. This is most often the case with editorial images for moments there aren't planned or cannot be recreated.
The effort and production involved in a shoot should be a factor in pricing photography. Effort can be related to time and equipment required, but it can also be related to art direction, the level of production required, planning and so forth.
A photoshoot that takes an hour can be priced differently than a multi-day shoot. If you travel for a photo job, the travel days should be considered in how you bill as an opportunity cost.
If you're a music photographer bidding on a tour, your rate has to account for travel days as well, not just show days. With extended jobs like touring, the rate also has to account for not being able to take other jobs in that time as well.
All hard costs should be a factor in pricing photography. This includes specialized equipment, studio time/rental, and hard costs such as transportation.
While experience doesn't always have a bearing on the value of photography, one should factor in experience if you're able to do a job efficiently. If it takes an experienced photographer an hour to create the work a client needs that would take another photographer four hours, that experience should be reflected in the value of the work. At the very least, the work is not valued on the time it took, but in the work it does for the client, which is the same regardless of the time and effort.
If you're newer to pricing photography, here are a few more articles for your further reading: